WHAT’S A 42-STITCH HAT?

Several people wrote to ask about the 42-stitch hats I mentioned yesterday. I attempt to answer.

The pattern (such as it is) is widely available. Cleckheaton has a version that they authorize yarn shops to give away with purchase of Gusto 10 that’s written to be specific to the yardage of that product. I’ve also seen very similar hats in several of the beginners’ books so popular now, distributed as shop patterns by LYSs, and posted other places on the Web. Basically, it’s a hat boiled down to its barest essentials – a very large gauge stockinette tube with a crown formed by simple decreases. The brim is formed by the natural tendency of stockinette to roll.

1. Find at least 55 yards of yarn that knits up to about 9 or 9.25 stitches = 4 inches. I got 9 with Cleckheaton Gusto, and 9.25 with Brown Sheep Bulky Spun. The Bulky Spun hats measure a bit under 18.5 inches around the lower edge, and stretch for a comfy fit on adults. The Gusto hats are just under 18.7 inches around the lower edge.

2. Cast on 42 stitches, and knit stockinette in the round. I used plain old half-hitch cast on to avoid a tight edge, and to conserve yarn. I did the whole thing on a set of four size US #13 DPNs, but if you hate double points you could do it on two circs, or start on one short circ, then move to DPNs.

3. Knit tube until it’s long enough to both cover your ears and reach just under the crest of your head. That’s about 7.5 to 8.5 inches, including the rolled brim (which should be flattened out to measure). If you’ve only got 55 yards of a superbulky, don’t make this part deeper than 8 inches.

4. Divide the stitches into 6 groups of 6. If you’re on DPNs, that means placing a marker (or remembering the spot) in between the two center most stitches of each DPN. Finish the hat by working six consecutive rows of knit with decreases, always working a decrease just before a marker or (if you’re on DPNs), the needle’s end – that’s six decrease points around the hat. You can work either K2tog or SSK, as you prefer, choose one and work it throughout the piece. If you pick K2tog, the decreases should stack up and spiral in counterclockwise to the center. If you pick SSK, the spiral should end up running clockwise. When you’ve got only six stitches left, thread break off the yarn and thread them up on the tail, drawing them up purse style. Darn in ends.

Note that you can make this hat larger or smaller by adding multiples of six stitches. A little kid size hat out of the same weight yarn would start out on 36 stitches.

If you pick a lighter-weight yarn, increase the cast on number by units of six, how many will depend on your yarn. For example, if you’re using a yarn that’s 10 to 10.5 stitches = 4 inches, 42 stitches would probably be a bit small, I’d aim for 48 stitches and hope that the fit wouldn’t be too large.

I wouldn’t attempt this hat with yarn that’s much lighter than 2.75 stitches per inch (11 stitches = 4 inches) for two reasons. First, much of the charm of this rustic-looking funky hat depends on the bulk and body of the yarn used. The silky firmness of dense Gusto is more satisfying than the less-dense Bulky Spun. Lighter weight yarns would be even more floppy. Plus I’d need to do more experimentation to satisfy myself that every-row ratio of crown decreases would work out as nicely as it does on the heavier-yarn hats.

Finally I have to note that I don’t like knitting yarns at these huge gauges. I can knit non-stop for hours on sock weight yarn, but this big stuff tires out my fingers. Also this is the first project I’ve ever worked on DPNs where if you look closely, you can pick out where my DPNS met. Feh.

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